Wednesday, 2 May 2007

Upstate Escape

A friend recommended Hudson, New York to me as an antique shopping destination that is easily accessible from the city. Just a two hour train ride from Penn Station, Hudson is fast becoming a home away from home for urbanites not only with a keen eye for art and architecture but with a keen palette, too.

Once a prominent port and industrial city, Hudson fell into decline in the late 19th century when prostitution and gambling became the most prominent trades in the town, as documented in Bruce Edward Hall’s book Diamond Street: The Story of the Little Town With the Big Red Light District. After years of recession and decay, Hudson is regenerating thanks to the foresight of antique dealers who took up shop in some of Hudson’s charming period buildings in the 1980s. A walk up and down it’s main street, Warren Street, showcases many pristinely refurbished Victorian homes, but the revival is still underway; fixer-uppers are not hard to find, either. They include the town's opera house, which is partially refurbished as a community arts center with exhibition space, but whose main auditorium still awaits refurbishment. Visit the Hudson Opera House (327 Warren Street, (518) 822-1438) or their website for before and after pictures, details of exhibitions and a history of the building.

Architecture and design treasures are not the only ones to be found in this town; there are plenty of cultural and culinary riches on offer. Our trip took us to many antique and junk shops with tempting offerings like vintage Pyrex bowls and mid-century flatware.

Bookshops are my favourite places to while away a few hours on holiday. Hudson City Books (553 Warren St, (518) 671-6020) has a good selection of used cookbooks, from practical classics like Mollie Katzen’s The Moosewood Cookbook to tomes like Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duquid’s coffee-table worthy Hot, Sour, Salty, Sweet. At The Spotty Dog Books & Ale (440 Warren Street (518) 671-6006) you’ll find an expertly chosen selection of books including, but not limited to local history, cooking, and baking and you can be even more leisurely in your book shopping by pausing at the bar for a local brew. The atmosphere is young, friendly and focused on community – The Spotty Dog hosts lots of events, including a quiz night. Here you’ll find an expertly chosen selection of books including, but not limited to, cooking, baking, wine and beer.

The culinary highlight of our trip was dinner at Swoon Kitchenbar (340 Warren Street, (518) 822-8938) on Saturday night. The place was humming Manhattan-style and reservations were essential. We sat at the bar and were given excellent recommendations by the bartender, including a very reasonable but excellent bottle of white wine and the charcuterie and gravadlax appetizers, both made in house. The terrine included in the charcuterie selection had a perfect texture midway between a smooth pate and a chunky meatloaf, and was served with sweet-sour cornichons that cut through the rich taste of liver. The appetizers were accompanied by fresh, warm bread. Swoon prides itself on fresh, local ingredients as evidenced by the list of suppliers on the back of their menus, which change daily.

Our fantastic meal continued with homemade papardelle with duck gizzard confit and wild mushrooms, and pan-roasted Maine monkfish. A hazelnut cake for me, and a panna cotta with rhubarb for Jan, were more than we needed, but were still happily received.

The feast at our bed and breakfast on Sunday morning was the most unexpected gastronomic treat of the trip. Reading about a local bakery, Jan thought he was imagining the smell of baking wafting upstairs, but it was real. When we went downstairs to the gorgeous dining room, we were treated to a spread of cereals, fresh fruit and yoghurt, and most importantly – home made quiche Lorraine, banana bread and scones.

Paul Barrett, the owner of The Country Squire Bed & Breakfast (251 Allen Street, (518) 822-9229), was a gracious host. He agreed that the quality of many restaurants in Hudson rivals New York City establishments, and recommended that we try Ca’ Mea (333 Warren St, (718) 822-0005) for its great Italian food. Unfortunately we didn't have time to get there. Looks like we’ll just have to go to Hudson again.


Anonymous said...

one just wants to leave the computer and go have a real talent for this jo. gib weiter alles!

Dirk said...

hey jo, we have been in Hudson for a day... what an awesome place. Fallen from grace during the week, arisen from the ashes on the weekend. This town is super dead during the week. Swoon Kitchen Bar is closed on Wednesdays (unfortunately) so we tried the other place: CaMea. Disappointing - Heavy (American) Italian Food: too much souce, too much salt... was there aubergine and ham in my dish? If you ever go again, go to Olana, just outside of town. The home of Frederick E Church - who was a painter - is so beautiful in the sunset - you want to be a painter right there.

Joanna said...

I'm sorry to hear that you were disappointed by CaMea! I guess I won't be trying that place next time. But I'm glad you got to see the charming town and the lovely architecture. I'll try to get to Olana when I next visit...